This whole thing against cultural appropriation is silly.
Looking back on my life I can see that things that at the time were awful and full of suffering have given birth in me to something that I wouldn’t give up for anything. I would even go back and have it all the same way just to have what I have now.
The realization that I’ve been elaborating throughout all my blogs and that is most explicitly stated in my updated about section.
One of the key factors in this realization is a deep understanding of society. This understanding was generated by a compulsion to understand society. I wouldn’t have had that compulsion if it wasn’t for the fact that I was almost totally ostracised at school and bullied.
This ostracism combined with an intense desire to be liked and accepted made me look at what caused people to be accepted.
I remember looking at a kid who was popular walking home from school surrounded by all his adoring friends and asking myself “Why does he fit in?”. I noticed that he had a way of holding himself; upright, strong shoulders and head held high. So I thought it could all be body-language.
Of course here I am translating my memory of myself then into the language competency I have now but I remember taking note of those things.
Another factor in my growth was being a late developer. Due to this fact I was labelled as having learning difficulties early on in school. I didn’t learn to read till a late age and because of this I have a relatively vivid memory of being stupid.
It wasn’t until a couple of years after finishing school that I would say that I started having really vivid realizations the first of which I describe here.
One of the results of this is that I’ve failed pretty much totally at mainstream academia. This has resulted in a loneliness and an alienation but also in an independence of thought.
There are things I am uncertain of and I don’t mind admitting that but there are things that I understand through a kind of seeing (my thoughts on free-will and my love of phenomenology are a result of this). The things I know through this seeing are mine and there is no external authority required for them.
If I had been able to discipline myself into the straight-jacket of specialism that is the trap of modern academia I would have been pumped through a system that would have kept me within a psychology of dependence. The person with the PHD has done nothing but substitute the applaud and condemnation of mummy and daddy for that of the consensus of whatever discipline he is in.
They have not – by virtue of the PHD – come to stand on their own two feet intellectually; that glory is reserved for the autodidact.
The main thing that motivates my interest in morality is compassion.
I see that in society the weakest and most miserable members are treated with disdain, made to feel ashamed and often abused all because of particular propositions of the status quo morality.
For instance I had a friend at work. He was a compassionate person and the worst I could say of him was that he was incredibly indoctrinated by the status quo and had a temper. Apart from that he was one of those decent people that make up a lot of the working class.
His attitude towards the homeless and drug addicts though was based upon the ethic of capitalism. He didn’t know this but it was.
These people didn’t work and expected hand-outs. They would steal etc…
It was a focus entirely directed towards just one aspect of the people in this class. It was a myopic perspective.
He would say that they should get a job.
He even told me a story once about how a tramp asked him for money and he replied “I wouldn’t even give you the steam of my piss”. He said this with pride and he probably had a feeling of righteousness in saying it. This is how morality makes monsters out of people.
It was sad because he was not prepared to even discuss it. To even entertain the idea that these people are deeply unhappy. That is why they seek the comfort of oblivion through narcotics to such an extent that it destroys the rest of their lifes. That causes them to break the law so as to run back into the arms of that oblivion away from their life of extreme poverty and misery.
For him it was black and white. These people were bad.
There was no inquisition into the social conditions that give rise to these people. How he is also subject to them. How the same force called capitalism that oppresses him and forces him to work the majority of his life is the force that has broken them.
That the homeless are symptoms of a society fundamentally incompatible with the human pursuit of happiness. That they indicated not a threat in themselves but a greater threat that hangs over us all. A threat with the only redeeming feature being that it should make brothers of us all.
His attitude was one of disdain and hatred to these people who in my eyes should – at the worse – be seen as people with a debilitating illness.
The same is the case with prostitutes and women in general when it comes to promiscuity. Men when they are promiscuous aren’t socially frowned upon. Sure there’ll be some old biddies in the local baptist church who would express moral outrage at them but in the main society doesn’t condemn them.
But women on the other hand…
Compare women and men in their ideal form. The man is a big, muscular, strong person who can handle stuff. The woman is the opposite. Yet who gets treated worse for sexual promiscuity?
The fact that morality is often directed against the weakest and most vulnerable elements in society shouldn’t be shocking. One of the psychological pay-offs of morality for those that make up the power-structure is that it allows them to go to sleep at night knowing that they’ve done service to absolute good by stamping on the face of the poor.
In order for a power structure to exist there has to be a perceived need for it. It is important to note that for the intentions of the members of the power structure to be fulfilled it is irrelevant whether the threat is a real threat or not.
It just needs to produce the reaction in the populace that is typified by the child who runs into the arms of daddy when he is scared.
One of the most powerful ways of doing this is to create as many threats as possible and to make those threats common. Morality is the means through which the elites have done this over the ages.
With morality the elites have been able to cause the response to threats to happen in response to evil. That is to say that instead of the threat having to involve risk to life; with morality it can also include people who are seen as morally wrong.
For example take the case of prostitutes. If you read my previous blog here you’ll see that prostitution in-itself is not harmful. Now by making prostitution a moral evil the power-structure creates another excuse for it’s existence. The man in the street – who is generally heavily influenced by morality – sees prostitutes as a threat and a threat that he is unable to deal with on his own.
Prostitution and sexual things generally are a brilliant choice for this because they are so common. What the elites have done is to take what is natural and habitual to humans generally and called it morally evil.
Also because the threats are based upon natural human inclinations and behaviours they are ineradicable. This is perfect for the person in control who wants to maintain his position because it is an ever-present reality. This – in the eyes of the heavily brain-washed man in the street – requires the ever-present assistance of the power-structure.
A funny thing about this is that it doesn’t require the conscious intention or knowledge of the people that constitute the power-structure. The phenomenon of morality perpetuates and sustains power like a natural force.
It’s much like a genetic trait that aids the survival and reproduction of organisms in nature. Once the inheritable trait occurs it is irrelevant whether or not the consequent generations know about it because it will nevertheless aid their survival through evolutionary mechanisms.
It could be that thousands of years ago morality came about. This may have been an intentional act of a power-structure, the result of people thinking, the spread of disease or whatever. Once it came about though it stuck because of how it facilitated power.
Common-sense morality is generally quite warped. It often seems to be nothing but a way for people who are the oppressors to maintain their position on the top.
One of the typical examples of this is prostitution. Why do we consider it bad and shameful? What are the effects of the context of morality that surrounds this the oldest form of occupation?
Firstly let us strip it down to its essentials. Prostitution is an act in which one person sells the sexual use of their body.
Concretely it involves two people being sexual and an exchange of money.
Just look at that on its own for a bit. Why does this activity garner so much moral attention?
It’s perfectly fine to sell yourself as a labourer, a masseuse and it’s even fine to sell yourself as a killer but the second you sexually please someone for money suddenly there’s something wrong. This seems very bizarre and warped to me.
If we wanted to trace this moral approbation historically and sociologically I reckon we could see the cause of it in the fact that systems of power have used repression of certain drives (predominantly the sexual drive) as a means of gaining power over the masses.
Orwell recognized the power this repression had in freeing libidinous energy for the service of the state by redirecting it towards veneration of a person in the anti-sex league of “1984”.
One of the effects of this is that the sex worker (and to a lesser extent the service user) is seen as something shameful, less valuable or even valueless. They become less than human in the eyes of the masses. This of course leads to the horrendous treatment they so often receive.
Also as a result of this the people in the sex trade are often the weakest and most vulnerable of our species. They see themselves as worthless and incapable even before entering the profession and that is why they become prostitutes.
It’s not that prostitution in-it-self is without worth but that because of the morality constructed by the elite it becomes the job of last recourse. Something that desperate people do because they are desperate and because of this there is such an atmosphere of mental illness and misery around it.
You could imagine a different social context in which the prostitute is respected. In fact only recently we had such an example in Victorian doctors. There was an epidemic of hysteria and the prevailing medical opinion concerning the cause of it was sexual frustration in women. So women would go to doctors to get fingered. The doctors were paid for this service though eventually they gave it up when the dildo was invented to alleviate strain in doctor’s wrists.
So when you strip it down the Victorian doctors were prostitutes but because there was a different social context and moral feeling around their action they didn’t feel guilty or ashamed; quite the reverse in fact.
To conclude I am saying that everything bad about prostitution (except STDs but risk of illness is present in almost all occupations) is caused by the moral feeling towards it and isn’t endemic to it.
Often it seems to me that us humans in our society are like Fritz and Tommy in the trenches of WW1.
They didn’t want to die and they didn’t want to kill. It was all put upon them by the power structures that they were thrown into. At heart, in the place that matters Fritz and Tommy were the same; they played a game of football.
You can imagine Fritz in the trenches thinking “If only I could go over there and just talk to Tommy! Then all this hell would stop. I could go home and make children with Gurta.”
You can see Tommy saying the same thing but instead of Gurta there’s Betty.
At heart we all want to love and be loved. To stroke and be stroked. It’s the reason we speak to one another. The reason we go to work!
You think you work for money? What do you want money for?
A house? A car? What will you do in your house? Where will you go in your car?
At some point the reasons have to end. The journey has to reach its conclusion.
The power structures of our day have got us distracted by the means to the end. They have got us to forget about the end we are striving for with the means.
They have us fixated on acquiring wealth.
They have us fixated on getting a better hamster-wheel for us to run on and we’ve forgotten what we’re running for.
There is a scene in the 2nd season of Mr. Robot (the 11th episode) in which the FBI agent is in her bed and she says to her home operating system that she is lonely.
You get to follow her around as she does her job and she has a cold, capable exterior. She is the ivory tower. But alone, in her room wrapped up in her blanket she cries and says she’s lonely.
Why doesn’t she let people in?
She has been tricked by the narratives that are put out about love that it hurts and that you risk something for it.
You risk nothing for love because love is the only something that there is that you could risk. Everything else is just packaging.
Sure you’ll experience sensations if you get love and then lose love but this should tell you something very different from what the popular narrative about love and love-loss tells you.
It should tell you that you’ve found the true treasure the heat of which destroys the packaging.
Wittgenstein’s a bit of a difficult one. In a funny way what he is saying is so simple, so in your face that you can’t quite grasp it. My grand-dad had an aphorism about maths that seems to fit Wittgenstein: “Maths is so easy it’s hard”.
I’ll give a quote and riff from there.
“504. But if you say: “How am I to know what he means, when I see nothing but the signs he gives?” then I say: “How is he to know what he means, when he has nothing but the signs either?” Philosophical investigations.
Say I have an image in my head and I try to communicate it to you what do I do? I may describe green trees and such and this description would be vague but it would be the way I would talk to myself about the image.
I could even go into minute detail by giving an exact mathematical description of the image. Like a computer graphic and the binary code that produces it.
I could even draw the image for you.
The thing is that the very means I use to see this image in my head are those that I can use to give you the image. There isn’t something hidden behind the image or the words just various degrees of exactness in the description.
There’s the old problem of how do I know that you mean what I mean when you say what I say. For example when you say you are in pain are you experiencing the same thing as me?
I think Wittgenstein would agree that you cannot be certain in the philosophical sense but he would then shrug his shoulders and say so what.
When you experience pain you act in a certain way. When you were young and being taught language when you behaved in this way you were given a particular training and treated in a particular way.
People would have said things like “Ahh does it hurt” and given you some paracetamol.
It could be that you exhibited this behaviour in response to a different sensation to the sensation I have when I behave this way.
We can also imagine that the treatment has the same effect – it stops you behaving in that way – as it does with me. If all this was the case then it doesn’t matter whether or not you experience the same thing as I do when you act out pain.
“If there is a bit of a machine that has no effect upon any other bit then it isn’t part of the machine” (It’s not verbatim but it is another quote from Wittgenstein.
One of the problems that you encounter when you first come across ideas like non-duality is that on some level you believe that in order for you to understand it the world must appear other than it has up until then.
You’ve been thinking dualistically and straining your experience through that experiential sieve.
Since dualistic thinking is the only thinking you have been subjected to and lived in you find it hard to disentangle your thoughts about reality from reality itself.
The one fact of our existence that we cannot doubt or change is that we experience. Not that we experience stuff. The stuff is an inference from experience.
But to leave the sentence at “we experience” troubles us because experience is playing the role of a verb in that sentence. It is something we are doing and seems to need an object.
“I experience taste” and such.
Even the sentence “we experience” is an inference because there is nothing else but the experience that isn’t an inference.
We infer from experience ourselves as the experiencer.
I know this sounds a bit circular but if you look at your own experience and ask yourself “Where/what am I?” You’ll see you never experience yourself as the experiencer; you just experience.
This isn’t to say with Berkeley that “esse ist percipi” or that the essence or being is the perception or experience because this is also an inference.
All we can say with certainty is that there is an experience.
Even that we can only say when there actually is an experience occurring though we couldn’t even say it if there weren’t an experience occurring. This is because knowing is an experience.
Now there are many interpretations and explanations for experience. All of them “fit” experience because all of them are trying to explain the same set of data. This is essentially the purpose of metaphysics.
This means that whatever one is true makes no difference to your experience. Everything is Brahma pretending to be separate things accounts for the same experience as materialism.
This leads most people to justifiably shrug their shoulders in disinterest concerning metaphysical questions because in terms of how you live it doesn’t really matter which is true.
Which is why a lot of religions create a stake in the metaphysical terrain as a means of investing people in their systems. The typical stake is something like karma or heaven/hell.
This idea of authority – and especially authority in matters of truth – is false and misleading.
Even on the level of a boss being over you at your workplace. His authority over you is borrowed from you. You have to at every command he gives deliberately choose to obey him.
Sure there may be repercussions to you not obeying him; like you’ll lose your job but you chose to take the job.
There are repercussions to not having a job; like losing your house and so on. All these though are things you have taken upon yourself. You could live like a tramp… the tramps do. There are even people who choose that life.
So what stops you from choosing it? That you don’t like it? I bet you do plenty of things that you don’t like to do all the time.
Have you noticed how malleable your preferences are?
Anyway on matters of truth authority is especially inane.
There may be instances where you go to someone for information. Say you have a project to complete in a limited amount of time and there is an area within the project that requires information from a subject with which you are unfamiliar.
That isn’t so much what I’m getting at but even there you are judging whether you trust the other to be honest and competent. Plus it’s only for a small thing, a bit-part for something bigger.
Even here if you’re wise you would interrogate who-ever you are getting the information from so that you understand it. That is to say so that you can be more certain of its veracity and efficacy.
When someone says you have to take what they say on faith it generally means that they don’t know what they are talking about or that they have some nefarious intent behind what they are telling you.
The fact is that if someone else can be an authority then so can you. It may take patience and a bit of work to understand a thing but those attributes are things that can be put into practice by anyone and you know – don’t you – when you understand something?
Until that flash of cognition occurs don’t you stumble around in uncertainty even if you are following orders?
It’s like playing a game. You can either figure it out yourself or use a manual.
Even with the use of the manual there is a feeling of uncertainty because you don’t get the inner logic of what you are doing. But once you do get it you know it and walk forwards with a sure foot.
With all the big questions in life such as “Is there a god?” and “How should I live?” there is a surplus of time to ponder them. There is more than enough time in a year let alone a life time to settle these questions for yourself without the need for authority. In fact even a short time and a brief survey of the literature on those questions will destroy your esteem for authority.
It’s a short step, but a long journey of letting go, from there to a place where you exchange authority for seeing!
A very common trap we fall into with our thinking is the belief that reality has to conform to our thinking.
This is shown in the ontological argument for the existence of God.
The ontological argument goes:
God is that than which nothing greater can be thought.
That than which nothing greater can be thought (we’ll call it god from here on in. Think of God as a variable; like an x in algebra) can be thought of as existing and not existing.
God existing is greater than god not existing therefore we cannot think of God as not existing.
All well and good but the final clause in the argument is the trap I am talking about.
Therefore God must exist. (implicitly: because we cannot think of God as not existing)
What we have done here is show that using certain laws for thought – playing a certain thought game as Wittgenstein would put it – you cannot think of God as not existing. The trap is to then extend this beyond the limits of thought itself. Why should reality conform to laws of thought?
This trap is so common because I believe it is something we are born believing. It’s behind the belief called naïve realism. We all believe that the world outside of our experience must conform to the world of our experience without ever having any proof for or against this belief.
Another example of this way of thinking, of how we extend the rules of thought to illegitimately (without any ground) make claims about reality is the idea of infinite divisibility.
Numbers come from counting and counting is a process that is reversible. You can go on into infinity and you can go back to infinity. You can also count within a number (1, ½, 1/3, ¼ etc). This capacity is something our brains can do.
We can do loops and such things with ease. But is reality infinite? Is the space out there that we experience infinitely divisible? This is of course an empirical question and because of that and the nature of infinity it is impossible to answer. But we just assume without too much trouble that this must be the case.
Always try to maintain the distinction between the thought and what it is a thought about and let the thought be determined by the object of thought. Don’t try to put a square peg in a round hole.